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Schools lack resources to tackle extremism, study finds

24th Sep 2021
Schools lack resources to tackle extremism, study finds

Hamed Chapman

Teachers across England are not being given the time, training or resources to teach pupils about violent and ‘hateful’ extremism while schools believe instead that the Government expects them to focus on seeking out and reporting pupils thought to be at risk of radicalisation, according to a new study.

Current teaching about extremism in UK schools was found to be ‘highly variable’, and in some cases ‘superficial’ and ‘tokenistic’, research carried out by UCL Institute of Education reported.

Much anti-extremism work in schools is ‘stymied by overcrowded curricula, lack of resources, a desire to perform policy for the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skill (Ofsted) and a mandate to detect and report any vulnerability to radicalisation rather than necessarily stamp out its root causes’, it warned.

Responding to the Addressing Extremism Through the Classroom study, the National Education Union called on the Government to provide schools with much more support, training and resources as well as space in the curriculum to tackle these issues.

“The Department for Education could be doing much more to empower the profession and face up to the actual barriers in the classroom,” Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union.

“On race equality, for example, the messages from the DfE have been mixed, confusing and unhelpful when it comes to the importance of actively challenging racism, talking about racism and countering racist stereotypes,” Courtney said.

The Association of School and College Leaders also said that teachers have an important role to play in educating young people about the false premises and dangers posed by extremist ideologies, but warned “they cannot do this alone, and more support is needed.”

“The reality is that schools have to juggle multiple demands on their time in the context of packed timetables and severe funding constraints, all at a time when our society has undergone a digital revolution which allows people to spread hateful views at the click of a button,” it said.

The study found that more than half the teachers had heard pupils express far-right extremist views in their classroom, while around three-quarters had heard ‘extremist views about women’ or Islamophobia.

It also revealed that many teachers do not talk about extreme views in the classroom out of fear that they will ‘get it wrong, especially on matters related to race’ as well as identifying particular problems with responding to conspiracy theories that presented a major problem.

Schools are mandated to report students at risk of radicalisation under the controversial Prevent programme and to “promote” and not “undermine” so-called fundamental British values.

The research found that many schools, particularly primaries, were treating policy such as Fundamental British Values “tokenistically to ensure compliance with Ofsted” as well as their scepticism about such teaching as a means of addressing extremism.

Researcher Dr Becky Taylor said the report showed that some schools “fail to move beyond surface-level explorations of violence, extremism and radicalisation” but remained convinced that schools can play an important role.

“Engaging well with their local communities and ensuring that schools and teachers are supported and appropriately resourced can help young people to problematise ‘hateful extremism’, she said.

“We are convinced that teachers need to be able to bring their own pedagogical expertise to the classroom, enhanced through appropriate professional development, to ensure their classrooms are safe environments for open discussion.”

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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